Judge Teneka Frost ’02 was well-rounded before taking the bench. With time in private practice, stints as an associate counsel and affirmative action officer at two state agencies, and as a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, she spent time writing the policy and later implementing and enforcing it.
In 2005, she was selected for a post-graduate fellowship in government law and policy at Albany Law School’s Government Law Center, during which she also served as an elected member of the Board of Education for the City School District of Albany. In 2018, she was appointed by Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy to serve as city’s first Black City Court judge.
That moment, she says, was a culmination of her upbringing, education, experience, and breaking the cycle of poverty within her family.
“My parents instilled in me hard work ethic, the possibility of being whatever I wanted to be if I put my mind to it. That moment was not only historic for the city but for my family,” she said.
Growing up in Albany, she saw family members fall into one of two cycles, incarceration for men and teenage pregnancy for women. Her parents were 16 and 18 when they started their family and Frost was labeled a “high-risk student” in high school.
“Now my family members—cousins, nieces, and nephews— can say my aunt or my cousin is a judge. They have a stake in me becoming who I am, they have helped shape me,” she said. “I do feel it is my purpose to stay in this community so that particularly my family members can see an example of success.”
Frost sets an example for her family, but in her courtroom, she is helping young people stay out of trouble too.
Through the United Against Crime Community Action Network (U-CAN), first time offenders 18-25 years old with no criminal record can learn from mentors and work on self-improvement over in a year-long program.
“It’s a court-monitored mentoring program established to steer young offenders away from crime and towards a brighter future,” she said. “Many times, they walk away with no criminal conviction, but still being held accountable for their actions. It is a way to mold them into being a more productive member of our community.”
“I, of course, am first responsible for upholding the law. But I hope that when people leave my court, even though they might not be there in the best of circumstances, they feel like they were treated with respect,” she said. “I do my job with integrity, I do my job with compassion for the people that I see in front of me. And I do my job, with humility knowing that my background and experience. has allowed me to witness and understand the complexities of human life and how those complexities can result in someone being in front of me. When someone comes in front of me either if it's in the criminal part, if it's in landlord tenant, if it's in a small claims matter, a traffic ticket, you know those are all human experiences that I understand, and I want to make sure that people feel heard respected and that they were treated fairly.”
On July 1, 2022, Judge Frost was named to Albany Law School's National Alumni Association